6/22/15

Google Plus Promoted as Tool in Debut of Google News Lab - Another Hint that G+ Isn't Dying

Google has announced the Google News Lab, which is described as Google's collaboration "...with journalists and entrepreneurs to help build the future of media."



For details about what all this involves, read the Google News Release re Google News Lab for details, or check out today's coverage in TechCrunch or Engadget.  

Google News Lab:  The Google - Journalism Hookup


For many folk, I suppose the idea of Google "collaborating" with the media is one very skeery proposition.  It's not that it doesn't give me pause, too. Consider that second option in the definition of "collaborating" as defined by Google:
1) work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. "he collaborated with a distinguished painter on the designs" synonyms: co-operate, join forces, team up, band together, work together, participate, combine, ally; More
(2) cooperate traitorously with an enemy. "the indigenous elite who collaborated with the colonizers" synonyms: collude, conspire, fraternize, co-operate, consort, sympathize; informal be in cahoots; "they collaborated with the enemy"

And if you're not aware of how invasive and worrying Google's actions can be, just read the post today over at Vodkapundit about his concerns over a Google notice that Google is eavesdropping via your gadget's microphone.  Eek!!!

However, I'm not focusing on Google being a part of a growing Big Brother society; instead, I wanted to share something I noticed in their promotion of the new Google News Lab to journalists and media publishers all over the world.

They've included Google Plus in their package.


That's right.  Google Plus is one of a handful of tools being promoted in Google's Distribution component of the new Google News Lab (the others being YouTube, GoogleNews, and GooglePlay).

GooglePlus is Part of the Google News Lab: Good News for Google+


Other distribution tools are listed on the Distribute page, but they aren't being promoted in the pretty visual page describing the "powerful" tools that Google offers the media in getting news stories out to readers.



For those that are wondering if and when Google+ is going to be executed by the Powers that Be, here's one more reason to think that Google Plus lives on, at least for now.


6/12/15

Google Plus, Is It Dead or Dying? Google+ Predictions in June 2015

First off, you should know my bias: I like Google Plus and I hate Facebook. So I'm hopeful that Google+ is going to survive and thrive as a social media alternative to Facebook.

I look at Google Plus as an organized, helpful place for professionals and adults. There are several reasons I enjoy Google Plus.
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Why I Like Google+ 


No one site is for everyone, and maybe you like Facebook. Heck, maybe you like LinkedIn. More power to you! To each his own.

However, for me I enjoy Google Plus for a number of reasons:

  1. I can count visiting my G+ site (page or profile) without having to worry about anything Kardashian popping up. 
  2. Google Plus communities are active with adults who know their stuff. I'm active in the #Evernote community for instance. Ditto the #Scrivener community. I don't know how I would have learned anything after the basics of Scrivener without those folk in the G+ Scrivener community. It's not the most user-friendly software (but it's a must for writers). 
  3. It's got lots of pix and images to entertain me while I eat lunch at my desk or I'm bored beyond belief on a conference call. 
  4. It's easy to access via my Toolbar and via HootSuite. 
  5. [THE REAL REASON I LIKE IT] Posts on Google Plus appear in the search engine results of Google Everything Search. That's right: Google indexes the posts that are published on GooglePlus. 

I'm Worried Google Plus Will Disappear (I Remember Google Reader) 


Long ago, I loved Google Reader. It loved me back, and it was the happiest of RSS Feed relationships.

Then Google killed off Google Reader, just like that (fingers snapping).  No one asked me, and apparently no one asked or cared about tons (TONS) of other Google Reader fans out there.

When Google wants to kill off one of its products, there's no pardon by the Governor.

It hurt then, and the memory hurts now even though I am happy with Feedly, my new RSS Feed helper. The anxiety of what to do when I learned I was going to have to find something to replace Reader was a real stressor, though, and I'd rather not go through that again.

I work for a living. I need dependable tools that work for me because I have research, writing, and clients that bring me angst enough. So, I am worried in the back of my head about G+ and I know lots of other folk are, too.

Will Google Kill Off Google Plus? 


Last month, there was a big conflab where a bunch of Google Powers That Be announced spiffy new offerings from Mountain View and curious by its absence was any mention of Google Plus. Add to this the departure of the Big Kahuna for Google Plus (Vic Gundotra) and the removal of Google Photos from Google Plus, and things looked pretty bad for G+ .


Many are waiting for the other shoe to drop where there is a quiet announcement that Google Plus is no more as of such-and-such date. I'm thinking that this may be true, but I'm not completely sure it will.

Granted, Google Plus never turned into the monster truck that is all things Facebook. Odds are it never will. Doesn't make Google Plus bad, though. It has its fan base of active users.

Plus, there are reasons for Google to keep G+ around. Guru Mark Traphagen wrote a great article explaining all the reasons why G+ is NOT dead and will not be executed in an April 2015 article entitled, "Google Plus Is Small, But Still Not Dead Yet."

Read Traphagen's piece. It will give you comfort. 

And one more thing. For me, one of the keys to Google Plus is not what it brings to me, but what it brings to Google. 

Go check out your GMail account, and down on that left sidebar you can scroll down to see all your Circles there, duplicating email messages within them that are also in your mailboxes (at the top of the sidebar).

Google has integrated its G+  Circles with email so that I can do things like email someone on Google Plus whose real email I don't know (think about that, stalker wannabes). 

 That's just one example of how Google Plus helps Google because G+ helps Google know a heck of a lot more about identities of me and my people as well as connections, interests, etc. And that's all really important stuff for advertising.

 And advertising is how Google makes its money. 

 So as long as I see those Circles in my Google Mail,  I'm going to sleep okay at night and not worry that G+ is sitting on Death Row.

6/1/15

Trademarks and Copyrights for Writers

Most writers know that they have legal rights to their work that are recognized by federal copyright laws.  Writers may not be aware how important trademark protections are for their work.  


This movie poster promoting "Her Husband's Trademark," is no longer protected by
federal copyright laws and is in the public domain. 


Copyright Law Protect Writers


Many writers understand that “copyright” is not a single, solitary right of ownership but instead there are several kinds of rights that can be sold by the writer to publishers in exchange for payment. Traditionally, selling copyrights has been how fiction writers have made their living.

Examples of copyrights include:


  1. First Rights -  the publisher is given the right by the writer to be the first one to publish his or her work (article, short story, etc.)  in print media or digital publication.
  2. First Electronic Rights -  the publisher is given the right by the writer to be the first one to publish his or her work (article, short story, etc.)  in an electronic publication only. 
  3. First Web Rights - electronic rights are not identical to web rights.  An electronic publication is a form of storage that holds the work in electronic form.  Electronic rights may or may not include web rights (aka Internet rights), which is the right to public the work online.   
  4. All Rights - every copyright that the writer has to his or her work (article, book, etc.).  Once this is transferred, the writer has no further connection with the work because that’s all been transferred to the buyer of the copyrights.  This is the exact opposite of a writer who writes under a work for hire contract.  In a work for hire situation, the writer is considered an employee of the publisher who is paid a fee for the work that he or she does, and all copyrights to that work product is “work made for hire” and the employee has no copyright ownership of it, that belongs to the employer who hired them to do the work.  Work for Hire means "no rights." 


Trademarks Are Different Than Copyrights



Legally, copyrights can be complicated and if writers aren’t careful, they can get manipulated by publishers into selling more than they intended and making less than they should for the work they have created.  It’s a necessary headache for many writers, this need to understand their legal copyright protections.

Added to that burden is the need to know what trademarks are and when writers may need to have trademark protections as well.  Trademark law exists to protect writers from "trademark infringement" just as copyright law protects them from "copyright infringement."

There’s a big difference between copyrights and trademarks.  Both are protected rights under federal law but they aren’t the same thing.   Moreover, it’s harder to get a trademark than a copyright even though there are situations where the trademark may end up even more vital to the writer than protecting their original copyright.  Trademarks, unlike copyrights, are not automatically created under the law for the protection of the creator / writer.

Warning for the Author and Indie Publisher of a Series of Novels 


This is particularly true of writers who decide to avoid the traditional publishing route, opting to publish their own work independently and acting as their own publishing company.  If a romance novelist, for instance, decides to write a series of Scottish Highlander Paranormal Romances and publish them on Amazon for Kindle, then that novelist and indie publisher may well need to consider trademark protections for their new romance series.

Why?  While the stories in each book within their series will have copyright protection, the following may need trademark protection:

  • The Series Title (as a tool being used to market the collection of books);
  • The Name of the Protagonist (if the entire series is dependent upon this one name or character); 
  • The Name of the Setting (if the entire series is dependent upon this locale); and 
  • The Name of the Indie Publishing Company (as a tool being used to market the collection of books).

Trademark Infringement: Consider Fan Fiction 

Federal trademark protection is based in a 1946 federal law known as The Lanham Act (aka the Trademark Act of 1946).  In this cornerstone statute, a trademark in the United States is defined as "… any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof" used in commerce to identify a service or good.

This means that a character’s name; as well as a fictional town where a cozy mystery series is set, for example; or the particular type of alien that appears in a science fiction work,  may be used to “identify” the series and therefore worthy of federal trademark protection.  Legally, there has to be a “distinctive source identifier” between the name, setting, or world-creation that can be shown to connect the readers immediately with the series itself.

This can be a big issue in fan fiction, for instance, where new stories are being written but use of the original work’s characters or setting results in infringement of the author’s trademarks.

The fanfiction writer’s defense?  Fair use doctrine (but this is getting way too complicated for a short blog post).

The bottom line here:  writers who are publishing their stuff  (particularly a series) need to know about trademark infringement and protecting against it just like they need to know about copyrights.  



3/9/15

Google Mobile Compatibilty Penalty Begins April 21 - Test to Make Sure Your Site is Okay for SmartPhones

Mobile-friendly sites will be ranked higher in Google Search Results Beginning April 2015. 

The Google Webmasters have let everyone know that beginning next month, sites that are not easy to read on mobile devices are not going to rank as high as comparable sites that are easy to read with a mobile device or smartphone.

In other words, you are going to be penalized starting April 21, 2015 if your website or blog is not compatible with mobile devices and friendly to searches on small phone screens.   




The deadline to be mobile-friendly is April 21, 2015.
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Check Your Site for Compatibility with Mobile Devices 


There is an online site that allows you to input your site’s url and determine if you need to worry about this or not.
  1. Go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and enter a few pages to confirm the compatibility of your site or blog.  
  2. Go to your Google Webmaster Account and check your entire site by grabbing a Mobile Usability Report. 

What if You Fail the Google Mobile-Friendly Test? 

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If your site or blog fails the test, don’t panic. The test itself (or your Google Webmaster Report) will explain the steps you need to take in order to have your blog or web site ready to meet Google’s Mobile Friendly requirements by the deadline of April 21st.

You may need to get busy, though.  April 21, 2015 isn't that far away ....

Why Is Google Doing This? 


Google is pushing mobile compatibility because so many of its clientele are searching Google using mobile devices. Google wants to provide the best information to those folk who are using Google and that means pushing those providing content on the web (like you and me and your competitors) to make sure that their stuff is friendly for mobile devices. 

It’s all about delivering the best service to the person choosing Google for a search in lieu of Bing or Yahoo or Ask etc. on their smartphone.  

From the Google Webmaster Central Blog:

When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns. In the past, we’ve made updates to ensure a site is configured properly and viewable on modern devices. We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps. ….
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. 

For more information, check out:

3/2/15

Amazon 1099 for EBooks on Kindle and Books on CreateSpace in 2015

Your Amazon Books and Federal Income Taxes

If you made money publishing books on Amazon.com in 2014, then you're right to expect a form from them to include with your 2014 income tax return that's due in April.  You should be getting an IRS Form 1099-MISC that tallies the amount of revenue you received from publication sales on Amazon.com during the tax year 2014.

However, things are messy this year.  Like you needed more headaches at tax time, right?



3 Things to Know About Your Amazon Book Sales for Your 2014 Income Taxes

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Here's the scoop:

1.  You cannot download your Amazon 1099.


First of all, you cannot go online and grab the 1099-MISC from your Amazon Author Central site.  It's not there (although you can download these things from other sites, like Smashwords).  Your forms are coming to you via the United States Postal Service, mailed to the address you've given to Amazon.  So, if you've moved in the past year or so, check your Amazon account to make sure they have your current address.  

2.  There's more than one Amazon 1099.  


Second, you won't get just one 1099-MISC from Amazon.  Nope.  You'll get one for your ebook sales from Kindle Direct Publishing and you'll get a separate 1099 from CreateSpace.

3.  Amazon is sending out corrected 1099 Forms.


Third, they are being sent late and some are being sent twice because the first round of IRS 1099s had mistakes in them.  Amazon should have sent you an email advising you to disregard the first form and that an amended version was being sent out in mid-February.  

More Information From Amazon


Questions?  Email Amazon at 1099 [at] amazon.com if you have specific issues. There's also lots of information about taxes and your Amazon publications at their Tax Information resource section.

And, remember: this may be a hassle, but the silver lining is that you've made money from your own writing if you're dealing with 1099 issues here -- so congrats!  
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